Unformatted text preview: How effective is the Mathematics Support Centre in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth? SigmaSouth West Hub Event, Cardiff University.
Monday March 30th.
Dr. Ciarán Mac an Bhaird
[email protected] Overview of Talk
Overview of Talk
► A description of the Maths Support Centre (MSC) in NUIM.
► How do we evaluate effectiveness?
► Records of facts and figures.
► Impact on Grades.
► Impact on Attitudes.
► Challenges. The MSC in NUIM.
The MSC in NUIM.
► Opened October 2007 with basic funding received to employ a manager and one additional tutor for 18 hours a week, 10 weeks per semester.
► Additional funding has been received on regular intervals to increase the number of tutors and now open 12 weeks per semester.
► Principal aim is to equip students with basic mathematical skills and to encourage student retention. The problem of student weaknesses in basic Maths is well documented. Sample Poster
Struggling with Maths? Looking for one-to-one assistance?
Call into the (free) Maths Support Centre
NUIM Mathematics Support Centre (MSC) is a free service that provides informal, friendly, additional support to our undergraduate NUIM students. Contact [email protected] or contact the manager Dr. Ciarán Mac an Bhaird. The ‘MSC’ will open (at specific times) in Classhall B in the Arts Block. You can receive one to one support with Mathematics, or come and work through exercises on your own and then ask a tutor for help.
The opening hours during term time are (from Monday the 25th of February) http://www.maths.nuim.ie/supportcentre
Days Times Monday 2:006:00 pm Tuesday 2:006:00 pm Wednesday 4:008:00 pm Thursday 2:006:00 pm Friday 10:0012:00 noon. Suitable Cartoons
Suitable Cartoons Measures of effectiveness?
Measures of effectiveness?
This is a very difficult thing to quantify, in fact we hosted a conference on this very issue in December.
Details of the conference at http://www.maths.nuim.ie/MSCConference/ ►
Presentations given at the conference http://www.ndlr.ie/mshe
A website containing relevant and uptodate papers http://www.mathcentre.ac.uk/staff.php/all_subjects/ measuring_effectivess/resources
A paper will be available in MSOR Connections Mac an Bhaird, C., O’Shea, A., ‘Is mathematics support worthwhile? An overview of the 3rd Irish Workshop on Mathematics Learning and Support Centres’.
Numbers ► ►
► ► Although numbers certainly don’t give us convincing evidence of the level of service, it is still important to keep accurate records for a number of reasons, mainly funding issues.
In our MSC we have used the numbers to obtain a bigger venue and additional funding for more tutors. The University uses the figures for promotion.
The maintenance of these records is very timeconsuming, but the University recognized their importance and provided further funds so we can employ people to maintain and analyse the data.
Records maintained include attendance and registration figures, as well as records of handouts. 0708 Student Numbers and details
0708 Student Numbers and details
► 1063 visits (Sem 1), 1430 visits (Sem 2).
► Average of 128 (Sem 1), 155 (Sem 2). ► 254 students registered in Sem 1, 273 students registered in Sem 1.
► Busiest week in Sem 1 (162), Sem 2 (196).
► Busiest day in Sem 1 (48), Sem 2 (59).
► 5% were from nonMaths subjects including Economics, Finance with venture Management, HDip in Remote Sensing, Foundation Cert in Engineering, Engineering and Psychology. ► 75% of students who registered with the MSC had visited more than once.
► Several students had more than 30 visits to the MSC with 50% visiting 5 times or more.
► Figures for 0809 todate show that the total number of students registered is 467 (455 at the MSC) a 63% increase. The total number of attendances is 3460 (3360 at the MSC).
► We provide an extra onehour workshop which complements an online proficiency course (12 extra students and 100 attendances at the workshop). Many more students have used the online course. Impact of Maths Support on grades
Impact of Maths Support on grades
4. We have analysed the impact of the MSC on the grades of first year students at NUIM by comparing the end of year grades of students who attended the MSC against students who did not attend.
Interesting similar work has already been carried out by Pell, G., Croft, T., (2008) Mathematics support – support for all?, Teaching Mathematics and its Applications, 27, 167173.
Dowling, D., Nolan, B., (2006) Measuring the effectiveness of a maths learning centre – The Dublin City University experience, Proceedings of the CETL MSOR Conference 2006. Publ. MSOR Network. 5154.
Patel, C., Little, J., (2006) Measuring maths study support, Teaching Mathematics and its Applications, 25, No. 3, 131
Lee, S., Harrison, M., Pell, P., Robinson, C., (2008) Predicting performance of first year engineering students and the importance of assessment tools therein, Engineering Education, 3, 4451. Grades of first Years
Grades of first Years
Group Number of
Students Percentage of
more than once Pass rate of
more than once Pass rate
or less Mean Final
more than once Mean Final
or less First Arts 201 28% 89% 62% 565 499 First Science 254 22% 71% 65% 509 488 ► The difference in pass rates for Arts students is statistically significant (chisquared test, p<0.001). There is also a significant difference between the mean mark of those who attended the MSC more than once and those who did not, (ttest, p=0.023). ► The difference for the Science students is not statistically significant, however students who attend perform better on average. Comparison of First Arts grades based on Comparison of First Arts grades based on second level results
Group Mean Mark of
visited more than
once Number of
Students Mean Mark of Number of
students who Students
visited once or
less HA - 0 723.20 5 HB 720.63 8 671.42 19 HC 608.33 6 565.20 35 HD 536.00 5 448.58 12 OA 540.86 21 451.25 40 OB 473.56 9 313.62 26 OC 480.00 1 342.00 1 OD - 0 157.00 1 Comparison of First Science grades based on Comparison of First Science grades based on second level results
Group Mean Mark of
than once Number of
Students Mean Mark of
Number of Students
visited once or less HA - 0 761.00 5 HB 752.25 4 730.92 25 HC 719.75 4 635.64 28 HD 654.00 1 567.47 17 OA 547.56 9 511.84 37 OB 450.00 19 381.86 36 OC 320.00 5 288.87 15 OD 510.00 1 302.17 6 Grades for ordinary level Grades for ordinary level students
Group Number of Percentage of
once Pass rate of
once Pass rate of
once or less Mean Final
more than once Mean Final Mark
of students who
visited MSC once
or less Arts 100 32% 84% 38% 525 393 Science 136 26% 64% 53% 445 403 ► ► If we consider the Arts students there is a significant difference between the pass rate of the students who attended the MSC more than once (84%) and that of those that did not (38%), (chisquared test, p<0.001). The difference in the final mean mark is also statistically significant (ttest).
For Science students the differences are not statistically significant, but students who attend still perform better on average. Comparing performance based on Comparing performance based on diagnostic tests.
than once Pass rate of
than once Pass rate of
or less Mean Final
more than once Mean Final
Mark of students
or less First Arts 31 52% 81% 53% 525 483 First Science 78 33% 73% 46% 481 362 Again, students who attend do better than students who do not. The differences are not statistically significant for Arts students.
► For the Science group (chisquared test, p=0.024) the differences in the pass rates are statistically significant. There is also a significant difference in the means of the final marks for the Science students (ttest, p=0.002), a 95% confidence interval for the difference in the means is (46.15, 193).
► The average grades of students who attend the MSC are significantly better than those who do not.
► Students with weak Maths backgrounds improve if they attend.
► In the case of first year students, at risk students were more likely to attend than higher level students. The opposite is true of second and third year students.
► The majority of at risk students do not attend the MSC. Impact of Maths Support on Impact of Maths Support on behaviour and attitudes ►
4. The majority of the findings are based on student evaluation forms and student comments.
Similar work is contained in Breen, S., Cleary, J. and O’Shea, A., (2008) A study of first year students’ experience of the transition from second level mathematics to third level mathematics in Ireland, (preprint).
Breen, S., Cleary, J. and O’Shea, A., (2008) A study of third level students’ beliefs about mathematics, Proceedings of the MEI Conference.
Lyons, M., et al (2003) Inside Classrooms: a Study of Teaching and Learning. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.
Pell G. and Croft, T., (2008) Mathematics Support – Support for all?, Teaching Maths and its applications, to appear. ► 358 students filled out the evaluation form, 211 had attended the MSC, 147 had not. ► We felt that getting nonusers to fill in some of the questions would give a fairer reflection of attitudes towards the MSC. ► It was completed in class to enhance greater completion records. ► We were sure that feedback would be positive so we decided to look at the students’ views of their own abilities first to give us some context. How often do you have difficulties How often do you have difficulties with Mathematics?
► 341 (204 users) answered. The vast majority (91.5 %) of the students had difficulties with mathematics, with 51% saying that they often or always had difficulties. ► We compared the answers of the users and the nonusers. There is a significant difference between the proportion of students in these categories for the user and nonuser groups (Fisher’s exact test, p=0.021). Attended
Yes 80 Count 60 40 20 0
Always Often Sometimes Rarely Never Attendance at MSC based on Attendance at MSC based on difficulties reported.
Attended Total No Frequency of Difficulty with Mathematics Yes Always or Often 56 118 174 Sometimes 60 74 134 16 12 28 132 204 336 Rarely or Never
Total ► It appears that it is the students who tend to have difficulties most often who attend the MSC. ► 67.8% of the students who reported that they always or often have difficulties with Mathematics attended the MSC and 32.2% did not. ► 55.2% of the students who said they sometimes had difficulties with Mathematics attended the MSC and 44.8% did not. The pattern was reversed for the group of students who rarely or never had difficulties, 42.9% of those students attended the MSC as opposed to 57.1% who did not. ► A considerable number of students who report difficulties do not attend. How do these difficulties influence How do these difficulties influence students’ decisions?
► We asked students if they considered dropping mathematics because of their mathematical difficulties. 335 students answered and a significant number (43%) answered yes. 45.5% of users said yes compared with 36.6% of nonusers. This difference is not statistically significant.
► We asked students if they considered leaving university because of their difficulties with mathematics. 338 students answered this question. 52 or 15.4% said yes. 16.3% of users said yes compared with 13.1% of nonusers. Once again, this difference is not statistically significant. Did the MSC impact on these Did the MSC impact on these students’ decisions? ► ► ► ► 88 students had considered dropping Mathematics and of these 39 (42.9%) agreed that the MSC had influenced their decision to retain the subject. 33 students had considered leaving NUIM and of these 19 or 57.6% agreed that the MSC was a factor in their decision to stay.
This is evidence that the MSC is having a significant impact on students who would otherwise drop mathematics or leave NUIM because of Mathematics related issues. However, 37 students with mathematical difficulties who were considering dropping Maths and 13 students who were considering leaving University had not attended the MSC. The Impact of the MSC on students’ The Impact of the MSC on students’ learning styles.
► We asked students if they felt that the MSC had increased their confidence in their mathematical abilities. 204 students answered. The majority of students (71%) agreed or strongly agreed that attending the MSC had improved their confidence with only 3% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
► We also noticed a change in students learning techniques in the MSC based on the onetoone help and working in groups. 60 50 Percent 40 30 20 10 0
Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Confidence Disagree Strongly Disagree ► We asked the students to rate onetoone help and group work in the MSC. ► 199 students answered on onetoone help with 93.4 % finding it useful or very useful, 2.5% said it was not useful or not very useful. ► 195 students answered on working in a group with 63.1% finding it useful or very useful and 10.8% saying it was not useful.
► Finally we asked the students an open ended question on what aspects of the MSC they felt were most beneficial. 201 answers. 160
Atmosphere Tim etable Tutors One to One
► Students with Mathematical difficulties are using the Support. They are reporting an increased confidence in their ability and are more likely to study independently, to think about Maths and to work in groups. ► Students who attend the MSC are changing their studying habits and their attitudes towards the subject. ► A significant number of students with difficulties are not attending the MSC. Challenges for the operation of the MSC
Challenges for the operation of the MSC
► Inappropriate venue and equipment.
► Inappropriate Funding. ► Attracting appropriate Tutors. ► Students attending the MSC are coming from over 30 different modules (per semester!).
► Opening hours not suitable for many students and not open enough hours. Challenges for the impact of the MSC
Challenges for the impact of the MSC
► A significant number of weaker students or those who report mathematical difficulties did not attend the MSC in year 1. We want to pursue this issue.
► A study on students who don’t avail of the service has been conducted by Duncan Lawson and Ria Symonds. We want to pursue a similar investigation.
► We have provided an online proficiency course and a workshop. Uptake is low but the people who attend really benefit.
► Students who want to use the service will use it and reap the benefits. Final Remarks
► ► ► Thank you to all the people who actually followed up on their promises of support. A particular thank you to my colleagues Dr. Ann O’Shea and Professor Stephen Buckley for their support. Of course, to SIGMA (Duncan, Tony, Moira et al) whose enthusiasm and support is infectious.
The MSC is not a replacement for tutorials/lectures, it is not a threat, but rather should be seen as an essential supplement to the services already provided by the University.
Students are weaker, so it is our duty to do all we can to raise them up without lowering our standards. There is no alternative, otherwise they will have negative feedback about both the University and Maths, and numbers will continue to drop. Final Student Comments
Final Student Comments
► The MSC has made a huge difference for me. If the MSC wasn’t there I would have failed most of my assignments in Maths. I come in here everyday of the week and I get help with Maths. I don’t get it done for me, but I get most of my lecture notes explained to me. And also it would be great to get a bigger room and more tutors. ► The MSC has been a lifeline to me, I feel it is the reason I can now be at the level to cope on my own. It is very useful when you have a problem that is just answered simply. I love Maths and would love to continue it in 2nd year. I feel this is now an option, but without the MSC I don’t think I would still be in Maynooth. It has definitely given me the help and confidence I needed. The room is not big enough and more help would mean not having to wait around for a long time. I feel it is important to have the people who help there sympathetic to the needs of students because if you are in the centre it’s because you need help. Most of the tutors are excellent. I hope it continues into the future so more students can have the opportunities I have had. ► Go raibh maith agaibh uilig.
► Thank you.
► Diolch. ...
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- Winter '08